Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 19, 2014, 10:45am

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that aims to boost innovation and provide pro bono legal assistance to inventors, small businesses and startups across the nation.

The bipartisan bill, H.R. 5108, overwhelmingly passed the House on a 327-22 vote Monday evening.

The bill, which creates a nationwide patent and trademark training program, is sponsored by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

Jeffries and Chabot said the program will benefit students, law schools, inventors, small businesses, startups -- and innovation.

“This is a win-win for everyone involved,” Jeffries said.

The program currently exists as a pilot at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with 45 participating law schools in parts of 24 states. It is formally known as the PTO Law School Clinic Certification Program.

H.R. 5108 will expand the program nationally and allow law students throughout the country to practice patent and trademark law under the close supervision of a faculty supervisor.

Students will be able to draft and file patent and trademark applications, and advise businesses on the appropriate response to a rejected patent application.

The expanded program also will help those inventors and entrepreneurs who may not be able to afford patent or trademark attorneys.

“The Patent and Trademark Office’s Law School Clinic Certification Program has proven to be beneficial to everyone involved,” Chabot said.

“Inventors and small businesses gain access to quality legal services and protections that they otherwise could not afford. The program trains our nation’s law students and provides them invaluable, practical patent law experience.

“And it helps streamline the patent review process by improving the quality of applications submitted to the Patent and Trademark Office.”

The bill is being backed by various stakeholders in the education and innovation fields, including the International Trademark Association and the Association of American Universities.

In a letter to Jeffries last week, AAU President John Vaughn wrote of his “strong support” for H.R. 5108.

“We commend you for your introduction of this valuable legislation,” Vaughn wrote.

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